This month we look at two books – one short and one longer – that grapple with the two key issues facing Britain today: the European Union, and industry...
Time to bail out? The end of the European Dream, by Paul Dixon, paperback, 50 pages, ISBN 9781478193074, published by Paul Dixon, 2012, £3.99.
In this brilliant and original little book, freelance writer Paul Dixon shows why the euro was always going to fail, why further EU integration will, and should, fail, why we need an in/out referendum, and why Britain needs to leave the EU.
He notes, “That three attempts to lock sterling into external exchange rates should have led to four financial crises and subsequent devaluations [1931, 1949, 1967 and 1992] ought to have served as a warning to anyone intending on signing up for an exchange rate which, to all intents and purposes, would be permanent.”
He points out the simple fact that it is not possible to operate a single currency, with one interest rate and uniform fiscal restrictions across 17 entirely separate sovereign states, each with their own political agendas and economic needs. He urges a return to the drachma as the only possible recourse for the Greek Government, pointing out that the longer it waits to do this the greater the ultimate cost to both the Greek people and the other Eurozone economies.
Instead, the EU, led by Germany and backed by Cameron, wants greater integration, both economically and ultimately politically, as the only option available which could preserve the euro in its current guise. But this is unwanted, undemocratic and impractical. As Dixon observes, “the right of democratic nations to choose their own government, and for that government to then run their country as mandated by the electorate, would be eroded in the event of greater European political integration ...”
He remarks, “National identities are here to stay and by imposing financial hardships, neutralising national parliaments and even foisting unelected governments upon countries, the EU is only stoking the fire of nationalism.”
The EU commitment to the free movement of labour also raises important questions. Within a year, by EU order, Britain will have to open its borders to the entire populations of Bulgaria and Romania, whose current unemployment levels are 12.4 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.
This potential mass immigration from Eastern Europe is not to meet our economic or social needs, but to obey the EU’s diktat. Immigration is an economic issue. A greater supply of labour will force wages down even further and put more strain on our housing, healthcare and education. Dixon notes, “It is important...to reflect that a sense of pride in one’s own country, a feeling that your own culture, national characteristics, and achievements are precious and should not be ignored, downplayed or forgotten, does not make an individual inherently racist or bigoted.”
We need an in/out referendum. The parliamentary parties don’t want to let the British people have a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave it. They are terrified of the answer that we would give.
Surrender: how British industry gave up the ghost 1952-2012, by Nicholas Comfort, hardback, 354 pages, ISBN 978-1849541459, Biteback Publishing, 2012, £20.
Fighting against factory closure at Plessey in Bathgate, near Edinburgh, 1982
The Labour Party has bought into the big lie that it does not matter who owns companies. But, as Nicholas Comfort points out in his survey, foreign ownership means that “when a British plant is doing well, the profits flow overseas – and when it does badly, there is nothing to stop the owners closing it down or transferring production somewhere cheaper. Decisions on where and whether to invest – and, of equal importance, to continue to invest – are taken abroad.”
Comfort notes that foreign ownership is promoted by investment banks. “In Britain, the moment an investment bank gets close to a family-owned company it encourages it to float on the Stock Exchange, paving the way for a takeover by a foreign competitor – with the bankers taking a hefty commission from both transactions and the national interest the loser.”
Comfort deplores the importing of cheap labour when the need was for higher productivity, also the short-termism of the City and the Treasury, and near-suicidal exchange rate policies. Tight financial policies force the pound up, making our exports less competitive. As he points out, the priority given to defeating inflation causes lasting damage to industry and society.
The Korean War “forced Britain, among others, to divert resources from civilian manufacturing into armaments – and in Britain’s case reduced home demand through a round of fiscal belt-tightening which not only hastened the defeat of the Labour government at the end of 1951, but proved after the event to have been largely unnecessary.”
He observes that Thatcher’s privatisations had an impact on manufacturing industry when centralised procurement or arrangements with a single supplier were abandoned, opening up everything from buses to telecoms equipment. Where this happened, “established British manufacturers from Leyland to Plessey were the sufferers.”
The Labour Party has also bought into the big lie that finance is more important than manufacturing industry. Comfort writes, “the reluctance of the banks to support any potentially productive venture when there are greater bonuses to be earned through the rashest forms of speculation remains a significant brake, not only on manufacturing companies’ expansion but all too often on their survival.” ■